A federal judge last week certified a class action that accuses a mortgage services company of violating the FDCPA by leaving a message on a door hanger for a consumer to call a specific number. The note made no mention of the debt, although it was left specifically for that purpose.
U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall in the Northern District of Illinois granted certification on Sept. 17 in Simpson v. Safeguard. The main issue is that the door hanger messages did not identify who left them or that the communication was in connection with a debt.
The plaintiff claims that Safeguard Properties LLC left five messages hung on the door knob of her home between Oct. 8, 2012 and Feb. 1, 2013. The property was attached to a mortgage for which Safeguard was the servicer and that the mortgage holder claims was delinquent (Simpson denies that she was even behind on payments).
In addition to not properly disclosing that the communication was in connection with a debt, Simpson claims that no validation notice was sent after initial communication, also an FDCPA violation.
But Safeguard contends that the FDCPA does not apply to the company as it is not a debt collection agency. The firm’s argument states that it is hired by mortgage companies to inspect foreclosed and abandoned homes and assist with evictions. As part of its field agent services, it also performs “contact attempt inspections” such as leaving door hangers asking the recipients to call.
Gottschall did not decide on the legal merits of the case last week, writing “whether Safeguard violated the FDCPA…will inevitably involve some individualized inquiry.” But she certified that the suit met the requirements for class certification. It will be interesting to follow the case and see if yet another form of communication falls under the FDCPA.